Trapped Like Mice: Palestinians Under the New Israeli “Disengagement Plan”
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Trapped Like Mice: Palestinians Under the New Israeli “Disengagement Plan”

Palestine is in the headlines of the Western mainstream media again. The preparations for the elections give everyone enough news to cover – or rather: they give the media enough news to cover up what is actually developing on the ground. But it is this current situation on the ground that will, if it is not stopped in time, more effectively shape the future for the Palestinian people than any electoral process ever could.

Away from international attention, the destiny being prepared for the Palestinian people is showing its true face more clearly than ever before with the new Israeli plans presented to the public in the past few months. The Apartheid Wall, with its horrendous effects on Palestinian life and land, does not stand alone, but is today merging with the longstanding Israeli settlement policy and the creation of Jewish-only infrastructure into a comprehensive scheme for colonial domination and conquest.

An appalling plan for Palestine is shaping up behind Israeli slogans of “disengagement”; behind the British “initiative to revive the Road Map”; and behind the U.S. drive to force through the completion of Israeli plans that finalize the Bantustanization of the Palestinian people. All three are combining to push for an end to all Palestinian resistance, which is seen as a pre-condition for controlling the Middle East from Jerusalem to Baghdad. The U.S. administration in particular is highly aware that any possible chance of success for the occupation of Iraq, and for U.S.-Israeli plans to shape the future of the Greater Middle East, depend on their ability to create “stability” for the Israeli colonial project of annexation, expulsion, and occupation in Palestine.

Among the recent plans announced by Israel, some were mere masquerades for the international media, while others revealed concrete Israeli projects. The latest modification of the path of the Apartheid Wall was a plan of the first kind. These supposed modifications were nothing more than the result of U.S. and international pressure demanding maps that would enable them to defend the Wall in front of their constituencies and public opinion. The “new map” of the Wall represents a contorted game of numbers and definitions that has “lowered” the percentage of West Bank land stolen and destroyed by the Apartheid Wall to 6.1 percent.

But of course, as the media and political leaders praising the “new” plan inevitably fail to point out, this 6.1 percent needs to be added to the 11.8 percent annexed by the settlements and the 29.1 percent isolated in the Jordan Valley. Without even taking into account the additional land that has also been stolen from the Palestinian people for the construction of the settlers-only roads, this makes a total of 47 percent of the West Bank, and reveals itself as absolutely no different from the 47 percent that Israel intended to annex before the supposed modifications.

This game of numbers is also aimed at re-directing the way that the situation on the ground is talked about. It steers attention towards the size of the Bantustans being forced upon the Palestinian people, as if it was not the very fact that our people are being closed off behind walls that should create the outrage, rather than the question of whether these ghettos should be slightly larger. We are not fighting for bigger ghettos or for more colorful walls, but for liberation and justice in our land.

The real Israeli political project, meanwhile, can be found in the “disengagement plan” and the initiatives connected to this plan. The disengagement plan, far from being a withdrawal or giving the Palestinian people the right to statehood, demarcates in fact the full Bantustanization of our people. The rhetoric of the plan hides one of the best-elaborated and most effectively industrially planned projects for the enslavement and destruction of an entire people.

This plan consists of four main construction projects that have been submitted to the public and are intimately linked to the construction of the Apartheid Wall:

1. The Building of New Settlements and the Expansion of Existing Settlements: Settlements have always been at the core of the colonial project to control Palestine. The so-called “disengagement plan” claims to be about the dismantling of settlements: that is, the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip and of four minor settlements in the West Bank near Jenin. But at the same time, Israel has announced the annexation of all the other approximately 200 settlements in the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition, Israel is currently expanding and constructing new settlements in the Tulkarem and Qalqiliya areas, ensuring the permanent annexation of the Palestinian lands isolated by the Wall.

2. More Settlers-Only “By-Pass” Roads: The fenced and heavily military guarded bypass roads are for settlers only—Palestinians are not allowed to use or cross them. These roads cut through the West Bank and destroy the Palestinian road system, allowing the settlers free access everywhere while at the same time annexing lands and isolating Palestinian communities from each other in the same way the Apartheid Wall does. Israel has announced the construction of a further 500 km of roads to reinforce this apartheid road network. It ensures that Palestinian residential areas are nothing more than enclosed islands, totally isolated among the settlements and their road system.

3. Bridges and Tunnels: Israel plans the construction of sixteen junctions with bridges (which will be guaranteed freeways for Israelis) and tunnels (which will be controlled passages for Palestinians, guarded by Israeli occupation forces). These will be the only passage points for Palestinians needing to travel from one area or city to another within the West Bank. While providing a façade of “maximum contiguity” among Palestinian areas to the international community—after all, the claim goes, these junctions connect the Palestinian Bantustans with each other, thus providing “contiguity”—this project is in fact aimed at guaranteeing full Israeli control over the West Bank even after a mock “withdrawal” of the Israeli army. All tunnels will be provided with gates (this is already the case in the village of Habla, in the Qalqiliya district, where the Palestinian population is at the mercy of the occupation forces in order to pass to or from their village), which will enable Israel to impose full curfew over the West Bank, perpetrate collective punishment at will, and control all Palestinian life. To do so, it will need no more than sixteen military cars, one for each junction.

4. The CBIZ (Cross Border Industrial Zones): The project of enslaving the Palestinian people, once we have been completely deprived of land, resources, trade, and livelihood, will be completed by the construction of Israeli Industrial Zones on our stolen lands that are located outside the ghettos defined by the Apartheid Wall, the settlements and their road system. This is the key element that provides economic sustainability to the rest of the Israeli plans. These Israeli-owned industrial zones will be labor intensive industries where the Palestinian people will be forced to work as exploited labor, enriching the Israeli economy in the attempt to earn a meager living in the only way possible behind the gates of our ghettos. Israel has asked the U.S. and Europe to fund the CBIZ, and thus to legitimize the Israeli political project, under the pretext of providing “work opportunities” for the Palestinian population. The CBIZ is also presented as a practical economic solution to a potential humanitarian disaster —after all, the argument goes, if the international community does not provide funding for this project, then the Palestinian population will be dependent on humanitarian aid (or simply starve to death in their ghettos, which might be upsetting for the world to watch). This humanitarian aid – like many other costs of the occupation of Palestine and the expulsion of Palestinians from their land – would thus have to be paid by the international community. In any case, under the CBIZ plan, the Palestinian people will remain subjected, enslaved, and deprived of any possibility of self-determination.

The Apartheid Wall allows Israel to implement and link all of the above mentioned policies into a coherent regime. It completes the Palestinian ghettos that have been prepared by the settlement policy and the road system. It also enables Israel to completely annex Jerusalem and to isolate it from the West Bank, thus providing Israel with a direct passage from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley, while at the same time taking away the heart of Palestine from the Palestinian people.

In the light of these facts on the ground, it is obvious that no Palestinian state will be possible. It is also obvious that the continued violation of Palestinian rights and of international law remains the infrastructure of the new Israeli plans. The only future envisaged for the Palestinian people is one of ghettos and Bantustans, and a life under permanent Israeli control, domination, and humiliation.

A Palestinian farmer standing in front of the destruction caused by the Apartheid Wall in Beit Duqqu asked: “You took our country and killed our children. You destroyed our houses and bulldozed our fields and built your settlements, what more do you want? Why the Wall? … You want to trap us like mice, you want to put a prison gate for us and start counting us as if we were some animals?!”

The Palestinian people will never accept a life lived under these conditions, where the occupation has been reinforced by the – seemingly – definitive colonization of the West Bank. This represents the completion of an apartheid system that by far exceeds the darkest times of South Africa, as it aims at the complete demise of our people.

We will never accept seeing our lands stolen and destroyed, our dignity taken away, our most fundamental rights violated every day, our holy sites barred in front of us, and Jerusalem – the historic, cultural, and economic capital of Palestine – annexed and isolated from our people.

We will not surrender to this destiny. But we are asking for a response from the world to this project for our demise that is clear, effective, and immediate.

Six months after the International Court of Justice decision regarding the illegality of the Apartheid Wall, the settlement policy, and the Occupation, Israel has not given any sign that it will stop the construction of the Apartheid Wall. Rather, it has strengthened its colonial plans. International criticism has proven unable to bring about the changes that are needed. The international community has – as with all other UN resolutions regarding Palestinian rights – once again failed to take up its legal obligations to ensure that the ICJ decision will be implemented and international law respected.

It is the people of the world who are being called upon today to defend the values of justice and freedom. The call for the isolation of Israel, through boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns, needs to get louder every day, in every city around the world. Individuals, organizations, networks, and institutions are already promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns throughout the world. The trend towards a new international anti-apartheid movement is emerging, and this is the grassroots support that the Palestinian people can build upon in the face of continued failures by the international community.

These different campaigns around the world must be the beginning of a process that will make Israel pay a price for its crimes. Such a worldwide movement is necessary in order to end this vicious blend of occupation, expulsion, ghettoization, leading—as the new Israeli plans reveal when they are examined closely, away from the media show surrounding the Palestinian election process—the total enslavement of a whole people.